Incorporation of caffeine into a quantitative model of fatigue and sleep

Max Puckeridge, Ben Fulcher, Andrew J K Phillips, Peter Alexander Robinson

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35 Citations (Scopus)


A recent physiologically based model of human sleep is extended to incorporate the effects of caffeine on sleep-wake timing and fatigue. The model includes the sleep-active neurons of the hypothalamic ventrolateral preoptic area (VLPO), the wake-active monoaminergic brainstem populations (MA), their interactions with cholinergic/orexinergic (ACh/Orx) input to MA, and circadian and homeostatic drives. We model two effects of caffeine on the brain due to competitive antagonism of adenosine (Ad): (i) a reduction in the homestatic drive and (ii) an increase in cholinergic activity. By comparing the model output to experimental data, constraints are determined on the parameters that describe the action of caffeine on the brain. In accord with experiment, the ranges of these parameters imply significant variability in caffeine sensitivity between individuals, with caffeine s effectiveness in reducing fatigue being highly dependent on an individual s tolerance, and past caffeine and sleep history. Although there are wide individual differences in caffeine sensitivity and thus in parameter values, once the model is calibrated for an individual it can be used to make quantitative predictions for that individual. A number of applications of the model are examined, using exemplar parameter values, including: (i) quantitative estimation of the sleep loss and the delay to sleep onset after taking caffeine for various doses and times; (ii) an analysis of the system s stable states showing that the wake state during sleep deprivation is stabilized after taking caffeine; and (iii) comparing model output successfully to experimental values of subjective fatigue reported in a total sleep deprivation study examining the reduction of fatigue with caffeine. This model provides a framework for quantitatively assessing optimal strategies for using caffeine, on an individual basis, to maintain performance during sleep deprivation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44 - 54
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Theoretical Biology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes

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